Internally, it’s being referred to as a ‘Whodle.’ The interactive Google doodle that’s gracing the search giant’s homepage the world over today is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of cult BBC sci-fi series Doctor Who. Earlier this year, some 4,000 fans signed a Change.org petition requesting a doodle in the Time Lord’s honor. Their wish has been granted with a game that incorporates all 11 Doctors, a bunch of Daleks and the TARDIS. (Play it here.) The goal of the multi-level game that travels to different areas and eras, is to collect all the letters that spell out ‘Google’ while avoiding patrolling Daleks who are keen to exterminate any Doctor in their path — although regeneration is an option. According to The Guardian, the Whodle and the game are the product of a team of five Google employees led by transplanted Brit Matthew Cruickshank, the mastermind behind last May’s Saul Bass birthday doodle.
In contrast to Apple, Google eschewed the usual new product event hype today as it released its its long-awaited new flagship phone and the KitKat upgrade to its Android operating system. The company says in a blog post that its Nexus 5 phone, made by LG, is available today online. While it has high-end specs — I’ll get to that in a sec — the big selling point is the price: $349 with 16 GB of memory, and $399 for 32 GB, unlocked — and before any subsidies from wireless carriers. (It’ll work with AT&T, TMobile, and Sprint but not Verizon.) The Nexus 5′s low price could make it attractive to people who’d prefer to buy their own phone and not lock themselves into a two-year contract with a wireless carrier. Consider that the iPhone 5s with 16 GB costs $649, and $749 with 32 GB, without a subsidy. As for the specs: The Nexus 5 has a 5 inch screen and is 8.59 mm thick. It’s powered by a Snapdragon 800, 2.3GHz processor. The rear-facing camera has 8 megapixels and Optical Image Stabilization, while the front-facing one has 1.3 MP. It’s also the first device to come with Android KitKat. The company says the operating system upgrade uses 16% less memory than the previous version. As a result it can “run comfortably on the 512MB of RAM devices that are popular in much of …
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
There wasn’t a whiff of talk about its next phone or mobile operating system in today’s Google announcements but plenty of other cool bits of news. SVP Engineering Vic Gundotra talked up rapid growth in the 2-year-old Google Plus, which gets little love from tech pundits but has blossomed into the second-largest social-media platform. Gundotra said the site now has 300 million active users and 540 million people who have accessed the site in the past month. Both are giant jumps from just a year ago.
Gundotra unveiled a raft of improvements to one of Google Plus’ most compelling capabilities, its Hangouts, free video chat rooms that can have audiences and be automatically recorded to YouTube. The latest additions will make it easier for people and businesses to set up, promote and produce Hangouts, with landing pages for scheduled public Hangouts and improved production capabilities, such as being able to control the volume or presence of an individual participant. “It’s like having a satellite truck in your pocket,” Gundotra said.
The stock is up about 6.2% in post-market trading shortly after the search giant released its strong results for the quarter that ended in September. Net income at $2.97B was +36.5% vs the period last year on revenues of $14.9B, +11.9%. The revenue number beat expectations for $14.82B. Adjusted earnings at $10.74 a share also topped the consensus forecast for $10.37. Paid clicks for clicks on Google sites or others in its network were up 26% from last year while the average cost per click fell 8%. That contributed to a 22% increase in revenues for the Google-owned sites, to $9.39B. The Motorola Mobile unit recorded an operating loss of $248M, a 29.2% increase from last year. “We are closing in on our goal of a beautiful, simple and intuitive experience regardless of your device,” says CEO Larry Page. By the end of this month the company is expected to release an updated version of its popular Android mobile operating system, as well as a phone — the Nexus 5 — positioned to rival Apple’s iPhone 5S.
UPDATED, 4:01 PM: The NFL responded to the WSJ report today by saying there are no plans to add more games on Thursday nights, let alone discussions about who might air them. Brian McCarthy, the league’s VP Communications, tweeted today: “Wondering where the idea of Thursday night doubleheaders came from? So are we. We have not considered this.”
PREVIOUSLY: This possibility petrifies cable and satellite execs. Who knows how many sports fans would cut the video cord if they had a Web-based alternative to satisfy their craving for live games? Yet The Wall Street Journal this morning strangely buried the possibility of a digital deal with the NFL in a story about the league’s interest in selling a new package of Thursday night games. (Officials are disappointed with the performance of the Thursday matches that air on their NFL Network.) While the league believes that a cable channel would be interested in a new package, officials “have also considered” selling to “a nontraditional media partner, including online players like Netflix Inc. or Google Inc.” according to an unnamed source. And why not? Google’s executives reportedly met with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about rights to the Sunday Ticket package when the deal with DirecTV expires at the end of 2014. Netflix also is eager to try different kinds of programming. CEO Reed Hastings noted in response to a question in an …
The search giant casually made the disclosure in a post on its Google+ social network. Google says that it will instantly tell people looking up a TV series when the next season starts, as well as info for upcoming episodes. For example, if you’re a fan of AMC’s The Walking Dead, Google says: “Try searching for [the walking dead tv show] and you’ll see all episodes listed along with their air dates. The first season kicks off with an episode called ’30 Days Without An Accident’ on October 13, which means you only have a few days to refresh your memory by watching last season’s final episode, ‘Welcome to the Tombs’.” Google adds that the new info complements data about ratings, cast, and characters it already provides in its Knowledge Graph. Those who want to be reminded to watch can click a button to have a card pop up when they check in with the Google Now personal assistant service. Google also provides links to find information about past episodes.
Last year Google changed its search algorithm in a way that was supposed to demote the rankings of websites that had been identified as persistent copyright violators. But there’s “no evidence” that the change has affected search-driven traffic to the sites, the MPAA says today based on a study it commissioned to follow up on the matter. “The share of referral traffic from Google to infringing sites included in the Google Transparency Report remained flat in the three months following Google’s implementation of the change last August.” This is important, MPAA chief Chris Dodd says, because search engines “bear responsibility for introducing people to infringing content — even people who aren’t actively looking for it.” Research firm Compete Inc. studied how many Internet users accessed URLs of 12M film and TV content sites that had hosted infringing content from 2010-2012, but not P2P sites or applications. It found that Google accounted for 82% of the queries that led people to the sites. In addition, 58% of the searches leading to the sites “contained only general keywords — such as the titles of recent films or TV shows, or phrases related to watching films or TV online — and not specific keywords aimed at finding illegitimate content.” U.S. Reps. Howard Coble, Adam Schiff, Marsha Blackburn and Judy Chu joined Dodd in calling on search engine providers to …
David Bloom is a Deadline contributor.
That’s the intriguing notion floated by Kelly Day, who headed online video distributor Blip.TV before it was bought by Maker Studios, the even bigger creator and distributor of online content based in Culver City. Day, still an adviser to Maker, was keynote speaker as the WestDoc conference for documentary, nonfiction and reality-show makers opened this morning. Online pundits have been griping lately about the 45% cut of ad revenue that Google takes for video it distributes on YouTube, up from a 70-30 split early in the platform’s life. While Day acknowledged it’s expensive and technically complicated for Google to host and distribute the massive amounts of video it makes available on YouTube, show creators have a sense that, because YouTube has so much content, “for the most part there hasn’t been a lot of sophistication about how to monetize the best of that content.” For companies such as Maker that operate so-called Multi-Channel Networks, or MCNs, that represent dozens or even thousands of individual online creators, “there is a great opportunity to think about how to package and monetize that content better,” Day said. And Google might not even mind, she said, given its previous pronouncements and how it allowed a similar ecology of outside companies to grow and thrive atop its core search-engine business.
Really, Google? A co-branding arrangement for the latest iteration of Android? Yep. The upcoming Android 4.4 will market a Nestle product: KitKat — a surprise to everyone who thought it would be named Key Lime Pie. The word had to begin with “K”: Google has been naming each major revision of its Android operating system after something sweet, with names proceeding in alphabetical order beginning with Cupcake and continuing with Donut, Eclair, Froyo, Gingerbread, Honeycomb, Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean. Marketers are taking this seriously. “Look for specially branded KitKat bars in a store near you that give you a chance to win a Nexus 7 or Google Play credit,” Google says. Nestle says the branding partnership is its “latest move in its ambition to leverage digital technology and online content to get closer to its consumers to better understand and cater to their preferences.”
The folks at Yahoo must be yodeling with delight today. A month after posting a disappoint Q2 report, the web giant has usurped Google for the US web-traffic throne. At least for July. Yahoo scored nearly 196.6 million visits during the month, according to comScore, topping Google’s 192.3 million and ending its five-year run at No. 1. That controversial $1.1B acquisition of Tumblr might have had a hand in Yahoo’s win. Although comScore still ranks Tumblr separately — it finished 38th in July — a footnote on the report says the social networking/microblogging site “assigned some portion of traffic to other syndicated entities.” Then again, fantasy football drafts are looming, and no one comes close to Yahoo’s domination in that space.
Google clearly caught the public’s imagination on Wednesday when it introduced Chromecast – the $35 dongle that can turn any TV with an HDMI port, and access to Wi-Fi, into a smart TV. Plug it in, and you can access YouTube, Netflix and other media, including music and photos from your computer, phone, or tablet. The device is already sold out on Google Play, Amazon, and Best Buy. (You can find it for about $45 on eBay, though.) And Google has exhausted its allotment of promotions that gave early Chromecast buyers three months of Netflix for free. So is Google’s new product worth all this excitement? Several critics who have tried it say that it is — but mostly because its cheaper than alternatives such as Apple TV and Roku. It “works as advertised, and it makes me feel like I’m a little further into the future,” The Atlantic’s Alexis Madrigal says. ”For $35, that’s a good deal.” Wired’s Mat Honan says that images don’t show that Chromecast needs to draw power from either a USB port or an outlet. Still, he’s “pretty blown away by how easy, versatile, and inexpensive this is. Given the low, low price … it’s really hard not to like.”
This may be the biggest surprise for Hollywood in Google‘s event today to unveil new products and software. The two-inch long Chromecast plugs into a TV set HDMI port, enabling users to watch videos from YouTube, Google Play, and Netflix and handle music and photos. (A Pandora app is on the way.) If it works as promoted, it would offer people an easy way to watch Web videos on TV without having to connect a box such as a game console, Blu-ray player, or Roku. Chromecast also comes with a three-month free trial to Netflix. With its small size the Chromecast “simply disappears behind your TV,” Google’s Rishi Chandra says. The device connects with the home Wi-Fi network, so you don’t need to tie up a computer, mobile phone or tablet. “We bring the highest resolution directly from the cloud instead of relying on your device to push the content,” Chandra says. But you can also use those devices to serve as remote controls, for example to pause the video or adjust the volume — which you can do without unlocking. And it will work with other companies’ devices, including Apple iPhones. “YouTube on TV becomes simple and intuitive,” the exec says. Google hopes that at the $35 price people will buy a Chromecast for each TV set. The company says the device will be available today on Amazon, BestBuy.com and Google Play, and will hit Best Buy …
The search giant is quizzing traditional programmers about possible licensing terms — just as Intel, Sony and Apple have — The Wall Street Journal says citing “people familiar with the matter.” Google has even demonstrated its planned service, says one witness. But the company is running into the same problems that other tech providers face: Content owners continue to offer their best prices to existing cable and satellite services, which would make it difficult — possibly impossible — for an Internet rival to be competitive. The story notes that Google, and other potential online TV services, likely would have to offer the same bundles of channels that consumers have to order from cable and satellite. The tech companies hope that they can win customers by providing a slick user interface — but at the recent National Cable Show several operators including Comcast demonstrated big advancements in the look of their services. Google owns YouTube and has cable-like broadband and TV systems in Kansas City, with plans to expand to Austin, Tex. and Provo, Utah.
Google has been investing even more in the future of its $1.6B acquisition YouTube, which is ramping up original content and recently launched a raft of paid subscription channels. The company has poured unspecified millions into a revved up 41,000 square foot production studio the size of a hangar in West Los Angeles dubbed YouTube Space LA, reports FT. There, studio space, greenscreen, and editing equipment is available for use for free to elite YouTube content creators and channel operators who can also improve their skills at Space-hosted workshops. Google’s got a reported 11-year lease on the grounds which is already in use by many of the video site’s original content makers.
If Google moves forward with a reported $1.3B acquisition of Israeli navigation and traffic app Waze Inc., it would be the search giant’s fourth-biggest deal by dollar value, The Wall Street Journal says. Waze was founded in 2008 and uses crowdsourcing to provide routing and real-time traffic updates, including police presence, road accidents, speed cameras, and hazards. It has nearly 50M users in about 190 countries. Waze and Facebook had been in talks, but Israel’s Globes reports the social network balked at the price tag and at a stipulation that Waze’s Israeli employees continue working in Israel. (Google has an office in Israel.) Apple had been thought in the running for Waze, but CEO Tim Cook said in May that the company had not made a bid.
The search giant just released a whitepaper that makes a case for studios to buy ads on Google, noting that it has become a central resource for moviegoers when they decide what to see generating data that can predict sales. About 61% of ticket buyers consult online resources — averaging about 13 sources — ahead of time. And searches for movie info including trailers jumped 56% from 2011 to 2012, even though the number of releases fell by 9%. “Since 48% of moviegoers decide what film to watch the day they purchase their ticket, it’s important to have a continued search presence through opening weekend and beyond,” Google says. People typically search for tentpole movies such as The Hunger Games or The Dark Knight by name, but in slower periods use generic keywords to find out what’s playing. “By adjusting search marketing strategies to these trends, marketers can either capture the attention of the ‘curious’ moviegoer, or deepen audience engagement with a blockbuster title,” Google says. Studios also can make last minute adjustments: An analysis of 99 films released last year found that search traffic in the week before they opened proved to be “a strong indicator” of the weekend sales. For example, a film with 250,000 more search queries than a rival release usually generates $4.3M more at the box office; one with 20,000 additional paid clicks should have a $7.5M advantage. In addition, …
David Bloom is a contributor to Deadline
Google co-founder and CEO Larry Page said it was a concern for improving the image of computer programming that led the web giant to participate in filming Fox’s The Internship, a comedy starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as unemployed salesmen who talk their way into coveted internships at the company. “I’m not sure we had a choice” about participating, Page said at Google’s I/O developer conference today. “Computer science has a marketing problem. We’re the nerdy curmudgeons. (But) the guy who plays the head of search [in the movie] is by far the coolest guy in the movie, and we’re really excited about that.” The comments came as Page talked of the need for better education and more computer programmers if the country is to remain competitive (the company also announced an initiative to make it easy for schools to buy and install educational apps on Google-powered tablets and computers). The Internship, directed by Shawn Levy, is set to debut June 7.
In one of its most elaborate doodles to date, Google has crafted a snappy animated tribute to famed film title designer Saul Bass (check it out here). Oscar winner Bass, who would have been 93 today, was known for his jazzy title sequences for such films as The Man With The Golden Arm and West Side Story, and for his collaborations with Alfred Hitchcock on Vertigo, North By Northwest and Psycho. Later in his career, he worked frequently with Martin Scorsese. He died in 1996.
“They have a glow about them,” Time Warner Cable CEO Glenn Britt told analysts this morning. But he sees the search company’s effort to expand its speedy fiber-optic broadband system to Austin — intensifying the competition with Time Warner Cable that began in Kansas City — as “no different” than other overbuilders that have failed to overtake cable operators. Execs say that there’s been a “de minimus” impact so far on Time Warner Cable. While Google Fiber is “very aggressive on price” its products are “essentially the same” as the cable company’s, Britt says. “The video’s the same and the speeds for the last part (of the broadband service) are faster but they connect to the same old Internet….I question the economics of this, and therefore their motivation.” He adds that Google has an “obvious public relations intent to depict the cable and phone industries as stuck with old technology.” But when it comes to business services, which need high Internet speeds more acutely than residential customers do, “we’re pulling tons of fiber.” Google’s “imagery painting is very effective, but not the reality.”